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7 April 2010United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the national army are adopting new security measures after a deadly attack in a hitherto more stable region of the vast strife-torn country highlighted the potential for local conflicts to rapidly escalate. Top UN military commander Lieutenant-General Babacar Gaye and national army Chief of Staff General Didier Etumba yesterday visited Mbandaka, capital of the north-western province of Equateur, to take stock of the situation after Enyele insurgents struck at the governor’s mansion and national assembly on Sunday before temporarily occupying the airport.“With FARDC (the French acronym for the national army), we will draw on the lessons learnt from the incidents that have been taken seriously by the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Lt.-Gen. Gaye said of the attack, in which a UN peacekeeper and two contractors died.Equateur is at the other end of the country from the continuing violence in the east and had been relatively quiet until last October when Enyele militiamen launched deadly assaults on ethnic Munzayas in the Dongo area, driving over 100,000 people from their homes in fighting over fishing and farming rights. Since then tensions have expanded to most parts of Equateur, with the army launching an offensive against the militia. In his latest report on the DRC to the Security Council, released this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited the clashes in Equateur as showing that local conflicts can rapidly escalate if they are not quickly and effectively defused by the authorities.The Enyele insurgents were finally dislodged from the airport on Monday in a joint operation by the army and peacekeepers from the UN mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC.“While the town looked like a ghost town on Monday; a few shops and markets were reopened on Tuesday,” MONUC said in a report. “The recovery is quite slow and many shopkeepers and merchants are still on the alert. Some shopkeepers could be seen standing before their closed stores.”Food prices have soared in the few reopened markets, with a bowl of beans increasing to 1,000 Congolese francs (about $1.10) from 800 francs, and a bottle of palm oil doubling to 1,000 francs. The attack came as Mr. Ban proposed withdrawing 2,000 troops from for the 20,000-strong peacekeeping force by June, saying the DRC had made sufficient progress in restoring a measure of stability over much of its vast territory despite continued violence and human rights abuses by both rebels and the army in the east.MONUC, set up in 1999, has helped restore a measure of stability and democratic processes to a country torn apart by years of civil war and revolts that resulted in the greatest human death toll since World War II – some 4 million people killed by the fighting and the attendant starvation and disease it produced.But fighting has continued in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu where the army, backed by MONUC, has been fighting mainly Rwandan Hutu rebels and a collection of other insurgents, with both rebels and army elements being accused of mass rape and other human rights abuses. Some of the Rwandan rebels have agreed to lay down arms and MONUC reported that 312 former rebels and 375 dependents had been repatriated to their own country so far this year. The UN has helped repatriate some 2,500 former rebels since January 2009. In another development Mr. Ban’s Special Representative Alan Doss condemned Monday’s murder by unknown gunmen of a Congolese journalist working for the national broadcaster, RTCN, and called on the authorities to make every effort to find the culprits and prosecute them with the full force of the law. read more